Tuesday, March 27, 2012

App Effect

Today I received the following letter from a group of staff members. It included images I wish I could share but I can't for student identity reasons. I told the group after I received it that so often my job is hearing when things don't work. It is such a blessing to get a letter like this and then to learn it also went to our Superintendents and directors involved.

The letter in full:

Dear Mr. Adkins,

We would like to thank you for making it possible, through an instructional grant, to provide iPads to the Elementary FLU (Functional Living Units) classes and Speech Therapists. From the time we got the iPads our students have ben very enthusiastic about using them. A lot of our students either don't have any way to communicate, their speech is unintelligible, or they just have difficulties with sentence structure, expressive and/or receptive language and find it hard to have meaningful conversation, especially out in the community.

The Proloquo2Go app is a communication app that is giving our students the opportunity to express themselves. We have many students that are verbal but their speech isn't clear or they just use 2 to 3 word phrases, but with the Proloquo2Go app they don't have to keep repeating their request because the [app] used within the iPad speaks for them. It's a very simple app to use and our students are quickly learning how to find what they are looking for to communicate.

When we received the first iPad and the Proloquo2Go app from a Region 20 grant, it was exciting to see our students' faces light up when they saw the iPad for the first time. They were quickly engaged in various communication activities and they couldn't wait until it was their turn to use the device. We knew from the progress they were making that the iPad was going to benefit our students in the classroom setting as well as in the community.

So thank you for thinking of our students and giving them a way to communicate and be successful in the classroom and in the community. We look forward to seeing the progress through the years, in each student, as they continue to use the iPad with the Proloquo2Go communication app.

Attached is a picture of our trip to Jalisco's for lunch and using the iPad to communicate what they wanted to eat.


I have to say that the three pictures were nice and I heard from one staff member that it was the first time some of these kids had ever been able to order their food for themselves. Awesome!

Building CommUNITY

One-third of my job is public relations and community networking. Not just helping with the district website but actually being active in the community to promote learning.

I don't believe my job is just for students in the preK-12th grades. As an educator, everyone has the opportunity to learn something new. And in a community, there are places where I can learn that don't require a trip to Austin, Houston, Philadelphia or other places. I can learn (and I prefer to learn) from a variety of places.

When I first arrived here as the CTO, I had no idea what to expect. I didn't have any connections in town. I had no experience in district leadership. So I reached out to others in my position just in town. I contacted the local hospital, the local city government, the local utility company, and the local college to find CTOs.

I hosted a lunch with all these people to pick their brains but also to share how I could help them in whatever way I could. We even were able to talk about common issues: recycling old computers, system management, SANs, and even email retention. We now have a site where we share resources. And our meetings aren't as often but we do call or email when we have immediate concerns.

Another aspect of the job is meeting with the local Hill Country Computer Club which is made up mostly of our retired community members. I remember the first time I was invited, I shocked the group by going into explanations of cloud computing and mobile devices in 2009. They told me afterward that they were expecting me to show pictures of students using computers in the school and I didn't do that. They were absolutely thrilled to learn so much and I make an annual appearance with the group to share each year.

Recently, the local university invited my input into their spending of a grant to build a lab for pre-service teachers. I have offered to provide them with some real professional development in using the tools they will be installing in the lab and will commit to helping them learn to use real resources found in many schools today.

Add to all this the meetings with our other local technology directors in surrounding ISDs whether it is the San Antonio group or the Hill Country group or even the Region 20 group; there is such community within our field to connect in person and to find common solutions.

I say all this because I think it is VITAL for people in our field to connect more than just at conferences or in online listservs and Twitter feeds. Being part of a thriving community within the place you live and work helps you find support that is a phone call or email away. We can get lost in negativity when things just aren't working the way we want so having a support system is really something I can't stress enough for people in educational technology.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Cloud OS

I keep thinking of this picture and using it to formulate an idea of what the future holds for us. Thinking about now and how we are all tied to a particular device to access content.

This picture is a quick view of when we don't need a device (except a hat to hold a micro-projector).

As more and more moves to the cloud, it seems fair to think that the OS would move there as well. Google already has their chrome OS in the cloud but it still requires a device to boot up to access it.

But with more Augmented Reality apps coming about and more interaction in the real spaces of life, does this picture seem that far off?

Google is currently working on their Goggles-tech which connects glasses to interact with an Android phone. The Golden-i is a project using Motorola, Microsoft, and Texas Instruments to make an all-inclusive mobile tech headset.

I think of this and the whitespace (link goes to my previous blog post in 2009 about whitespace) tech that Google, Motorola, Microsoft and others started working with in 2008 and wonder about the future of technology in the world and in our education world.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Unraveling Staff Development

Summer is just around the corner and that means.....Summer Staff Development!

We are building our catalog now!

Let me brag a bit about summer staff development. It is my favorite time of the year!

Teachers love our staff development. We get the best comments. We offer a wide-range of topics and make them EVENTS. We give cheezy door prizes and provide snacks for everyone. Our topics have interesting titles and our promotional videos and flyers encourage creativity and fun. 

Our events look effortlessly strung-together. On the back-end, there is a lot of planning and cultivating. I plan sessions based on high-level and low-level technology users. I actually think of specific people in the district and try to predict what they will get from the training.

My PD runs smoothly. It looks effortless but only because so much effort went in behind-the-scenes.

Staff evaluation comments about each session are taken into account for more training. Staff appreciate the humor and candor in the trainings. They appreciate how we not only showcase a resource but we also provide lessons on how to integrate them.

Having said all that, I've decided to change things up this year. I am planning to only offer 1 day of Staff Development in our Techpalooza event on June 4. After that, all other "Joel Adkins" tech-trainings will be available in the form of eCourses.

eCourses will be able to be completed by individual or groups of staff. Our eCourses will use a variety of online learning tools with questions to help teachers not just learn a new tool, but challenge them to implement and evaluate classroom effectiveness.

Training scenarios will incorporate videos, blogs, discussion questions, calendars, and a host of interactive modeling tools on the different topics so staff can become acquainted with new resources and methods for classroom implementation. An evaluation tool will be used to help discover the effectiveness of the resource in classroom instruction and student learning.

As stated before, we are offering these courses for individual access, small group, department group, grade-level groups, etc. to encourage staff collaboration in learning in an e-learning environment. 

There are many other training opportunities for those accustomed to "sit-and-get" types of training during summer. I am sure there are other tech staff who will provide some hands-on training with SMART Boards and eduphoria! tools as well. Not all sessions will be in eCourse mode.

We are putting these together now and hope to have them in the catalog by early April as choices. All the workday Staff Development offerings for early August will be integrated into eCourses as well. Staff will be able to take the Responsible Use Agreement, Blood-Borne Pathogen, Sexual Harassment, and other mandatory trainings online in eCourses for professional development credit.

Ideas or comments about summer PD are welcome!

Saturday, March 17, 2012


Does this seem so far away?

Photo from Dr. Steve C. Yuen's slideshare presentation on Augmented Reality in Education

Stephen Wolfram and Ray Kurzweil at SXSW both discussed the idea of cloud computing moving more toward cloud processing. Kurzweil shared his projection that the next step is the ability for processing power to take place completely in the clowd.

It doesn't seem so far-fetched. And when this occurs, where is the need for any particular device?

Google is already working on one device to be released toward the end of this year.

As we move more and more to the cloud, we are becoming less reliant on devices to access our resources. What if the cloud itself is the new computer? Not too far a stretch from a post I made three years ago. Too bad I was focused on Google Wave as the solution. 

Out on the table

I'm putting my cards out on the table. The SXSW experience has shaken me up. I have spent the past three days unplugged to sort ideas (and catch some fish). I have filled up a notebook with ideas. I have rested to make sure that I am not just putting something out there because I am tired.

Nope. I'm not tired. I'm actually energized.

Don Tapscott spoke at SXSWi to the feeling I have felt for a long time about education. He said, "The world is broken. The future is not something to be predicted. It is something to be achieved."

I do believe the education system is completely flawed and corrupt. I don't believe I am alone in thinking or feeling this way. But I keep working in this system. I keep trying to apply technology and change to a system that cannot be fixed. I feel tired and that my efforts are worthless in the big scheme of things. I see glimpses of ideas and adoptions that help out a few but not the entire organism.

I look at our history of applying technology to classroom instruction for the past 30+ years and I see repetitions of what was done with similar successes. We aren't making bold changes. And can we say that our implementation of technology into learning has been good? Or has it caused more harm in ways we haven't even looked into?

But there is always a bottom line and to me, that is the learner. So what can we do to provide instruction to learners of all ages (preK-16 and adult) that is not only effective but is easy to access and an enjoyable experience.

To me, the answer is to take it out of the education system. If the system is flawed or if the system lacks the ability for peers to come together within an organization as well as without, then maybe we need to look at moving to a ubiquitous global-platform. (Tapscott)

Tapscott pointed to the need to use social media to rebuild our institutions on the principles of collaboration, sharing, inter-dependence, transparency and integrity.

Think of ALL the resources we have at our fingertips. We have bits & pieces available online and yet we haven't figured out how to mesh them all together to create a quality online education system. We are letting corporations do this and continue to sell horrible products and ideas to our decision-makers.

Originally, in Texas, there was a place for us all to work collaboratively in Project Share but it didn't work. It was a good idea at the time but it wasn't fully realized when we started into it. So we are now fractured using websites, Moodles, and other methods for organizing lessons and ideas. (see my November 2011 post about this)

The Khan Academy has started as a place for online learning but it lacks interaction. It is still one-sided, learn by watching. We need a place for there to be online interactive learning.

What if a group of educators put together a framework for online learning combining current (and in-development) technology to make learning available for everyone in a shared space. We moved away from the flaws of federal- and state-regulated education. We applied creativity and design to create learning that doesn't require grades, standards, measures, assessments, or attendance. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

SXSW Dean Kamen

I have seen a lot of great sessions but this one was my absolute favorite. Dean Kamen is a brilliant inventor and motivator. I learned about him when Segway came out and followed his TED Talks showing an upright wheelchair and prosthesis for veterans.

I embedded two videos in this Storify that I highly recommend so you can understand more about this Da Vinci of our time.

As for his presentation, he was really soft-spoken about a very powerful message of hope and dedication to helping people around the world. This was the heart of SXSW for me and the absolute best part of the conference. I end my SXSW coverage on this blog with this presentation because of how touching it was.

Educators: he directed so much of his message to the FIRST Robotics program and how we need to package education better to reach our students. 

Enjoy and share with others.

Monday, March 12, 2012

SXSW Ray Kurzweil

Ray Kurzweil (@raykurzweil2035) spoke today on Expanding Our Intelligence Without Limit. #SXIQExpand

I didn't get to attend this session and in a way I am glad. It seems he had very good twitter-esque comments predicting what is coming toward the singularity.

The information about 3D printing, health & medicine being the new information technology, and how search engines will be moving more toward AI is really interesting stuff. With Siri and IBM's Watson, it seems plausible.

I like that there is a discussion about AI search engines judging our search terms. This is a really interesting read. The Twitter-verse had Kurzweil showing up in the Top Feed section during his session as his presentation was spreading like a virus.

Makes you wonder what is coming next?

Good project for kids I used to employ: take a current technology device and let them project what it will be in 3 years, 5 years, 10 years. What are the limitations now of the device? Let them build the device to remove those limitations.

SXSW: Biz Stone

I think most of the techies in the crowd were unimpressed by Biz Stone, but I enjoyed his presentation. He really shared the heart of creativity and imagination in producing not only a good product, but also in providing social change.

In education, we are hearing more and more about how our students need to do more project-based learning and to contribute to solving real-world problems. This session was a great speech for motivating people to share in philanthropy and engage in their world to solve problems.

As for the young start-ups, he made sure to relay to them to spend time sharing. He noted how when you fail in business but keep providing for others, you receive such benefit. I highly suggest a read through the tweets on this presentation. It was a really uplifting message. 

SXSW Monday - Mar 12

Today is going to be crazy. You and I have quite a schedule to follow. I am hoping you following along on Twitter on topics. I may open a CoverItLive blog during the sessions if there is interest.

Today we have several keynotes. I think I will seat myself in the Exhibit Hall for most of the day. Here at SXSW, the Exhibit Hall is where the keynote presenters get to share if they aren't in Ballroom D on the fourth floor. Or they are simulcast due to spillover.

11:00 - Dean Kamen - Invention & Inspiration: Building a Better World
2:00 - Ray Kurzweil - Expanding Our Intelligence Without Limit #SXIQExpand \
3:30 - Biz Stone - Content as a Means for Social Change #SXContentAs

Other sessions I am Twitter-covering today:
9:30 - The iPad: The Second Coming of the CD-ROM #sxiPadCDROM
9:45 - Light and the Unexplored Communications Frontier #sxlight
11:00 - Own the Media or the Media Will Own You #sxownmedia
11:00 - The Future of the New York Times #SXFutureNYT
11:00 - Free Coffee, Bad Apples & The Future of Currency #sxfreecoffee
11:00 - How to Remember Anything: A Teach Yourself Guide #sxremember
11:30 - HOW: Why HOW We Do Anything Means Everything #sxHowWeDo
12:30 - The Business of Kevin Smith #sxkevinsmith
12:30 - Building the Next Generation of Innovators #sxgeninnov8
12:45 - An Emerging Solution to How We Teach Our Students #sxLearn2Grow
3:30 - Changing the Channel: The New Golden Age of TV with Richard Linklater, Timothy Levitch, Morgan Spurlock #sxhulugan
5:00 - Web Originals: Television's New Guinea Pigs - Lisa Kudrow on panel #sxweborigs
5:30 - Digital Leaders are Made, Not Born #sxLeadership

Are you ready to follow along? Share insight? Ideas? I hope so. We can do this together!!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

SXSW Digital Storytelling for Non-Profits

I like to try to get design information for publications we create in education. I do enjoy sessions where people are sharing tips on print and web design. This was a session I was interested in attending but could not for time reasons.

As content-creators, I believe all of us should be challenged by the topics discussed in this session. The methods for engaging the people in the story of your classroom, your campus or the activity are what draw people in and provide that interaction for support.

This was a really great session and I have so many Twitter posts from J. Baird (Twitter @createacomic). If you aren't following her, you need to. She seems to be going to the sessions I want to be in and her Twitter notes are fantastic!!

SXSW Stephen Wolfram

Fast-paced and high-level thinking. This session received a standing ovation for speaker Stephen Wolfram (@stephen_wolfram) creator of the computational search engine WolframAlpha and Mathematica

Great Twitter posts kept up with this and I put them in a Storify. Education concepts toward the bottom. Amazing presentation!

Pause - Surviving

I want to take a pause to just say that I am surviving okay during this conference. My brain is wired. There are sessions within sessions and conversations within conversations. The rest of "Spring Break" will be a mind-dump for me to sort all this out.

 I had high hopes to post my schedule each morning but with late night "conversations" and early morning wake-ups to get downtown, my time is really not allowing me to post those. I haven't even been able to plan my day. I am now going session to session based on which is closes to me.

It is seriously nuts here. I feel I am losing my mind but yet connecting to a group of people who are dealing with issues I feel I am sometimes experiencing alone. There are times I wish I could see a familiar face. I see a lot of people glad-handing colleagues they have worked with in the past. I go into rooms and have to initiate every conversation. But I do initiate conversations and enjoy meeting all these different personalities.

I just wish the health training of H1N1 we all received in education was taught here. I have not seen people sneeze so much and openly without covering their mouths in a long time!

SXSW Connected Company

So this is the reason why this educator goes to a conference that is not directed toward education. The conversations taking place in so many different sessions and keynotes offer real parallels in the education circle. We have similar battles. We use similar language. We have similar successes. I am learning new language and theories based in corporate society but these themes are similar to issues we face in education. The reason I am here at this conference is to engage in direct conversations with people who are envisioning change, progress, shift, and passion back into the workplace no matter what that workplace is. The session I attended this morning on The Connected Company was really interesting. The Storify is below with my notes after. I found the idea of the Community Manager key to success in change. I believe in edtech, we call these staff members the "cheerleaders" or "tech evangelists" who try new things and then share their successes with others. This session focused on building the community in an organization to allow those in it to feel more connected. As companies (and schools) begin to shift and change, there has to be a system in place to support the PEOPLE as they go through change. A discussion of the panel asked if this should be the HR department's job? The answer made it sound like the role should be based on each company and what their needs are. Megan Murray (@MeganMurray) is the Director of Collaboration Strategy at Moxie Software and she noted that the Community Manager is a mix of ADD, Human Psychology, Social network, support system, nurse, and trampoline. These could be managers, secretaries, or any staff because it is more based on their value to the network. After the session, I shared with Megan Murray (@MeganMurray), how we found our Community Managers in our district. I hosted an event last year called Techpalooza which was a type of Gamestorm called Unconference. The event looks completely unscheduled and unplanned. I ask the audience what they want to learn first and we list them for all to see. Then I ask the audience who will teach on each topic. As people sign up to teach, the shift occurs from which one person (namely me) is the focus of training to a shared community of trainers who are in the crowd and more local to the people who are there to learn. I see many districts implementing great change with 1:1 and BYOD initiatives while also undergoing STAAR assessments and other major changes. Where are our Community Managers? How do we find support them? Bonus Points to @davegray for providing early morning mimosas for the audience as well as a great simple slide presentation using his own drawings: http://www.flickr.com/photos/davegray/sets/72157626546771488/ This presentation isn't the one he showed to the group but the ideas are similar in the notes.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

SxSW BravoTV: Top Chef

I haven't watched Top Chef since I moved away from cableTV, but I was a big fan of the show. So I went to this presentation on how Top Chef has changed Transmedia.

The panel consisted of on-air talent and behind the scenes emerging media execs talking about how the interaction with fans changed TV to SocialTV. As a fan, I enjoyed the playfulness of this session but it was really interesting information about SocialTV and Transmedia.

Visual notes from the event:

SXSW (sigh) My Saturday Schedule

Ok. So this is why Twitter is valuable to me.

At 11:00 today, there are 7 sessions I must be in. They are in different hotels and conference rooms. The topics are totally up my alley but I will only be in one location. So Twitter is going to help me. Here is my schedule so far...it may change. I can't even comprehend after 12:30 yet.

9:30 - missed TechStars! - but will curate via #SXTechstars

9:45 - 10:45: Scope out the place, take pictures and finalize schedule.

Data Visualization for Social Good - #SXdata4good
How Data Can Predict the Future - #SXhappydata
Viral: Strategic Video Success - #SXAntiviral
Games to Enrich - #SXwhitecard
Future of Gaming - #SXgamefuture
Joss Whedon - #SXwhedon
Design for Simplicity - #SXSimplerUX
Transmedia - #SXacg2ts
Bravo TV's Top Chef on Transmedia - #SXbyBravo - I will be in this one to see Chef Tom!

Multiple Personality is not a Disorder, but the Norm - #SXthenorm
Remix and Steal - #SXRemix

Keynote: Barantunde Thurston - #SXkeynotunde

Community of Transparency: Open Data in Action - #SXCommunity

May head over to Palmer Center for Screenburn Arcade

Break through the Noise and Host Great Events - #SXGrev

Crowdsourcing SXSW researchers

Last night, I finally opened my conference book and realized the strands for sessions are based on location. Not only that but each session has a Twitter #hashtag pre-marked for discussion and back-channel discussion during the event.

So....for those of you who aren't here, you may want to visit the site to get a copy of the sessions by strand and follow the tweets based on sessions you would attend. Tweetdeck will be VERY handy!

Update: The online schedule doesn't make the hashtag appear! Dang! So it will take some trial & error. May have to follow just #sxsw and search for mention of a speaker or topic to get the #sx_____ hash to follow on topic. 

You can tweet me and I will look up your presentation in a session if you want for the hash tag. You can send me the presenter's name and I can check the index. I will try!!!

Here are the strands and yes, these are all at different locations in downtown Austin. 

Better Tomorrow - Multicultural and Non-Profits

Branding & Marketing - Advertising; Building fan base

Convergence - Creative and Emerging Media

Culture, Science & Play

Design & Development - Usability, UX design, application programming

Emerging - All things up and coming

Featured Keynotes: Anthony Bordain, Steve Case, Andy Cohen, Tom Colicchio, Chip Conley, Barry Diller, Vic Gundotra, Dean Kamen, Guy Kawasaki, Stephen Levy, Biz Stone and a whole lotta more - These are recorded and will probably be available online somewhere.

Future of Work - Decentralized locations and finding talent

Government & Global Issues

Health & Education - Online learning and the future of medicine


Late Break - Future 15 - 15-minute solo presentations curated from proposals submitted to PanelPicker

Mentors, Meetups, and Camps

New Business - strategies for startups

Screenburn - the gaming arcade and showcase at the Palmer Events Center

Social Networks - harnessing the information on our networks

StartUp Villiage - startups, entrepreneurs, investors

And yes, there is an APP for SxSW that is helpful as well!

Friday, March 9, 2012

SxSW Gamification

I attended a session on Gamification & Socialization involving Bing Gordon being questioned by Brad Stone of Business Week. I admit, I didn't know who Bing Gordon was when I went into the session. I wasn't impressed the first half. I was really confused by this laid back philosopher of gaming. But after reading his bio, I am really impressed.

"If you don't have an MBA yet, just play WOW, you'll learn more"

"Every Fortune 500 company should have a gamer on the board."

"Gamification should be about creating win-win environments."

Not a direct quote but he did say something to the effect that gamers believe that constant improvement is possible and added "with feedback" at the end.

"The most powerful element of gaming is not winning, it's collaboration. The math of teamwork makes the difference."

"Architect your company the way you would a team in a game. Privileges are like levels."

"Games reward failing quickly because that us how you learn where limits are. Entrepreneurs do it all the time."

On the topic of education: "John Dewey is replaced by John Madden [football]." - He said this and then asked that it be tweeted. I complied.

And then all hell broke loose for me. Bing made a comment that struck me hard. I have had these thoughts swirling in my head a while about gaming and education but haven't been able to put them into proper terminology.

An audience member asked about virtual currencies and whether gaming would extend to payment systems and virtual good. He specifically mentioned education using new currencies to award for student success.

Gaming culture and education. We keep trying to mesh these together but using an antiquated award system for student success: grades. I think we need to look at a new currency for our students if we are to apply gaming to learning. This thought isn't fully realized but it definitely is rooted. I think future sessions and conversations will help me sort this out. Any thoughts out there about this?

More on this topic during the week? Follow thread on Twitter #sxgamify

SXSW Cool Tools

Apps and Cool Tools from SXSW:

A really great tool being used by SXSW keynote and convention is something new to me called O-Hours, short for Office Hours. It is a way to setup a meeting with a keynoter to spend individual time with them in an online scheduler. I found this in Don Tapscott's session and he even announced his O-Hours at the Driskill Hotel.

SXSW keynoters and fellow startup specialists are setting up O-Hours in different areas all over Austin to meet with individuals in person or online.

I think of the terrific talent in our own TCEA conference and how much time is spent in blogging areas. Imagine if our talent-pool setup their own O-Hour sessions to let people schedule individual time with specialists in our field.

Apps of Note:  
This one is really great for the conference though there are some privacy concerns. It is considered a passive-location network in that it connects to your Facebook & Twitter accounts to find people around you (physically) who share similar interests. So during the course of the day, I get over 80 highlights showing me people with 1, 2, 20 similar interests to me who have been in the same vicinity as where I was walking.

Sonar works similar to Highlight but connects with Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and LinkedIn to provide the same interest levels of those around you.

Path is making itself known as the alternative to Facebook without all the fluff that Facebook added (apps and ads) that made us all start to hate it.

Pixable is the "inbox for your photos" - it pulls the photos from your Twitter and Facebook timelines into one spot to see all at once. So when friends or colleagues post a pic on Twitter or FB, you can see them instantly in your Pixable account.

Zaarly is coming up in the ranks. It is again taking that passive-location system but helping you find sales deals from the people around you. It is a localized auction app where you can buy or sell items from anyone around you based on what you have for sale or are wanting to buy.

SxSW Tapscott

Today, most of the SXSW events started at 2:00. I started with badge pickup and the line wrapped completely around the Austin Convention Center. Those who have been there can imagine what that was like.

But Interactive is about being interactive so it was good to meet and talk with people in the line. Plus, we weren't in the cold rain so what was there to complain about?

After getting my badge (with built-in RFID tag), I setup camp on the fourth floor to scour my notes and put together the previous blogs you see before your eyes. Then I thought I would wander into one of the large exhibit rooms to get a good seat for the two sessions I was interested in being in.

But lo and behold, I was able to catch the tail end of a speaker I really wanted to see but had forgotten to put on my schedule. Author and speaker Don Tapscott was keynoting in the very room where I was! His topic "Rethinking Civilization for the Social Age" and he discussed 5 major principals in the age of networked intelligence: collaboration, transparency, sharing, interdependence and integrity.

I found his examples and ideas to be very similar to Clay Shirky's books and even tweeted that I felt these were quite similar. But he took us on a journey about the second wave of democracy involving policy wiki, deliberate polling, challenges, citizen reporting, micro actions,

He said "National state is the wrong size to solve big societal problems today" and that we are moving into a period in which division of labor in society is changing in terms of solving major challenges. Non-government players role will grow.

I thought his point about top-down leadership was really profound for education: "The person at the top can't learn for the entire organization anymore. We all have to be involved in this change."

I meet A LOT of directors. They are the lead person for innovation in their districts. But I believe in what Tapscott (and others are saying) that we need to direct the focus back onto others to commit real change in our districts. We should be providing the support to allow people to extend their creativity to their teaching and learning. We can be involved but we shouldn't take the helm to direct the change. Showcase the change taking place in your district but step back to let the real change-makers step forth.

Being the Student Again

I found a really profound post from an educator in the New York area who was at SxSWEDU this year. She claims she is a former teacher but I hate to call someone a former teacher; especially when a blog post like this captures the heart of education. I feel we dishonor those who served by using the word "former" when it comes to retirees or people who have left education (unless they go work for Textbook companies, then they are called TRAITORS! LOL!)

But I feel that @edgeeks, Marisa Kaplan really hit the nail on the head and versed something for me I have not been able to describe all that well: the feeling of being a student again at conferences

Toward the bottom of her post, she shares that common thread of emotion I experience at these conferences. It is this experience I enjoy most in my job because it does pull me back to the time when I was a student. It is this experience I feel we need to surface more within our teachers to see more relevant connection between learner and teacher.

From EdGeek's blog:

Throughout a day like today, I go through the motions of being a student again – feeling:
  • So inspired that I feel like I can do anything
  • Like I have no idea what the teacher is talking about
  • Like I already know what the teacher is teaching, so I’m bored
  • Like I need to take a walk because I’ve been sitting for too long
  • Like I wish I could speak more
  • Nervous to ask a question

I love her post. It is one of those things I would want to bring up in professional development with teachers to let them voice their range of emotion during training. Maybe a Gamestorm activity to chart these feelings as we go and then a time to share how this connects them to their students.

Data Driven - For the Win!

The title of this blog is based on the Twitter hashtag #dataftw. And it is a continuous topic of conversation about how much classtime is spent on collecting data but no knowledge really of how that data is used.

In an attempt to build a better unfolding for this conversation I wasn't physically in the room for, I will use a tool called "Storify" to build this post. Check it out sometime. 

This session was more of a discussion than a problem-solving event. I think the most valuable mention in this is how media and commerce have tools to connect consumers to data to help them make the best decision. However, our teachers don't necessarily know two major things about the data they collect:

1. What the data is and how it used
2. How to access the data to use for themselves

I handpicked some of the tweets from this presentation below. 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

SxSWEDU Buzzword: OER

OER stands for Open Educational Resources and represents the vast library of digital resources that are used for teaching and learning that fall under open licensing. In other words, FREE digital content for teaching and shaping into curriculum.

This is getting more buzz due to the flexible nature of these resources to work on various mobile web devices. TEXTbooks are not flexible. They are not remixable. They are not digital (yet). And they most certainly have copyright issues. Plus they are not scalable nor are they sharable.

In our district, we have been looking into Flexbooks by CK12. Flexbooks are digital textbooks made by educators and students that can be downloaded and even changed.

You can publish your own Flexbook or borrow someone else's to modify for your needs. There are even Flexbooks written by other students on topics where learners may have difficulty.

This was a presentation I missed on OER and implementation ideas for classrooms. The presenter laid out easy steps for teachers to use to adopt OER materials for use in their teaching. I think this is something we should all be looking into more as we look at outstanding non-traditional tools we can shape to our own students' needs.

SxSWEDU Buzzword: Curator

A popular buzzword at SXSWEDU and in the vernacular of other online networks is for educators to be more like curators. This is a science I feel many of us (me included) are not so great at.

We find great resources and share them but how often do we expand on why we like them before we share.

This is the concept we fail to teach our kids when they turn in projects involving search but not REsearch. They find materials online that state a point of view but they don't correlate why that point of view is valid to the ideas they need to present in their project.

Same for how often I tweet, retweet or share a particular research. Part of it is time. I want to rush out a great tool in the rush and overflow of sharing tools on my networks. But I fail because I don't add my personal value for the tool.

This the CONTEXT of the resource and context is key for understanding why the idea is shared.

I missed this session on Educators as Curators but I found the online presentation and want to share it. This is "Re-envisioning Modern Pedagogy: Educators as Curators" from St. Edwards University.

Fabulous slide design too! 


I have been in Austin the past few days attending the South by Southwest EDU conference (sxswedu) for my first time. I wasn't sure what this conference would be, and by day 3, I am still figuring out what this was.

This was definitely an interesting conference. The majority of panel speakers and attendees were start-up companies looking to discuss how their projects could help educators. Now you may think that this would be a great conversation we should be having but there really wasn't very much dialogue between panelists and audience. I am hopeful that this is improved for future conferences. The idea of having the dialog between the media, the start-ups, the companies, and the educators who use products is one that I find is missing in other circles.

As someone who values the true partnership between my sponsors and vendors, I look forward to sharing our needs with those who are working to build products to help us. It is rare to be involved in these types of conversations though. The other conferences have exhibit halls where I feel I get sales-pitched to death. SxSWEDU had no exhibit hall. In fact, the only showcase of product was in the LaunchEDU sessions where brand new start-ups had 3 minutes to present their idea to a panel for endorsement by SxSWEDU.

But this conference definitely didn't have the barrier between vendor and user like others do. By letting us meet and talk with the REAL people who make up the companies, it definitely opened my eyes up to an entire new social network of sharing. I gained about 80 new followers on Twitter in only 2 days while adding about 30 for me to follow! 

My other posts will be more about what I learned here but I thought I would give definition to SXSWEDU first.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

SxSW Conference

March 6-13, I will be in Austin attending back to back conferences. My first is the SxSW EDU conference at the Austin Hilton. This is a conference with a focus on innovations in learning and is in it second year. Last year, I didn't attend because the focus was just on Project Share. This year, the conference is a bit more diverse with elements of mobile technology, social learning, collaboration, assessment, assistive technology, and a whole lot more. I am really looking forward to panel discussions and meeting people outside my normal realm of communication in my current social networks. Should be interesting!

Following EDU, I will be part of the SxSW Interactive conference. This is a non-traditionally education conference that is about journalism, gaming, social media, social networking and technology. It is the relevant, real-world perspective that makes everything we are doing so worthwhile. This is the conference that changes me the most and inspires me beyond any learning network where I am connected. The entire downtown area of Austin is transformed for SxSW and it is such an outpouring of creativity and artistry.

Here are my posts on my old blog from last year's SxSW. I was really blown away by the experience and now feel I can better manage my time. Who knows what celebrities I might bump into again this year?

My schedule for the week is posted online. Feel free to check in or follow me on Twitter @mradkins if you are interested in what is going on. I guarantee it will be quite a ride!